ATLANTA (AP) -- LeBron James has signed a six-year multimillion dollar marketing deal with the Coca-Cola Co. to be a key endorser of Sprite, a role that has been filled by Kobe Bryant.
The company has stopped running Sprite ads featuring Bryant, who is charged with sexually assaulting a woman in Colorado. Company spokesman Scott Williamson said Thursday that the deal with James -- this year's No. 1 pick -- was "unrelated to Kobe Bryant's situation."
The company did not disclose terms of the agreement, which also calls for James to endorse Powerade, but a source with knowledge of the agreement said it is worth several million dollars over six years.
Todd Stender, an analyst with Crowell, Weedon and Co. in Los Angeles, said that regardless of the company's motivation, the timing of the deal is good for Atlanta-based Coke.
"What's important to Coca-Cola is taking the immediate attention away from Kobe Bryant and Sprite and attaching it to a new player like LeBron James," Stender said. "He's going to be the biggest name this season in the NBA. There's a a lot of excitement around him."
Earlier, the company had said they planned to stop running Bryant ads temporarily even before the accusations against him were disclosed.
James' deal with Sprite and Powerade includes extensive marketing activities for the two brands, including advertising, promotions and appearances.
"I have been drinking Sprite and Powerade for a long time," James said in a statement. "I have always admired the way Sprite and Powerade spoke to young people and athletes, and I can't wait to be a part of it."
Last week, Gatorade pulled out of negotiations with James, the Cleveland Cavaliers rookie who has already secured over $100 million in endorsement deals, including a $90 million contract with Nike.
James twice was named Gatorade's Player of the Year, and it had been assumed he would become one of its pitchmen, following in the footsteps of his idol, Michael Jordan.
In addition to the Nike deal, James has signed a $6 million contract with Upper Deck trading cards. The 18-year-old Akron, Ohio, basketball star entered the NBA draft out of high school. He has a $13 million contract with the Cavaliers.